Sunday, March 10, 2013

Ragazza tutta nuda assassinata nel parco (1972)

aka Naked Girl Killed In The Park

Despite its title and the fact that it actually does feature a naked dead girl in a park, said naked dead girl is only a minor aspect of the plot of Alfredo Brescia's giallo. The film takes place in Germany (I think). A rich man named Wallenberger is killed in the tunnel of horrors of an amusement park. For some reason, he has a large amount of money with him, which the murderer of course absconds with. Curiously, Wallenberger had just taken out a very large life insurance a few hours before his death.

The insurance company would very much love to find that one or all of Wallenberger's heirs - his wife Magda (Irina Demick) and his daughters Barbara (Patrizia Adiutori) and Kathrin (Pilar Velázquez) - had something to do with the murder, which would make them the most impatient killers imaginable, too. The company assigns its best investigator, Chris Bayer (Robert Hoffmann) to the case.

Chris is specialized in sexspionage, so his first order of business is to slime himself into Kathrin's bed and confidence. Something clearly is not right at all with the case: threatening phone calls disturb Kathrin (who has a the vapours-style heart disease), and a rather threatening man follows her every step; why, it's enough to make Chris rather protective of her.

At that point, Kathrin invites Chris to a very interesting weekend in the family home, where the rest of the family performs the usual rich people in a giallo freak show. Magda drinks too much and speaks with her dead husband, Barbara is a cynical bitch who sleeps with the hired help, and even the servants, particularly stable boy Günter (Howard Ross) are rather on the strange side. Of course, more strangeness and murders occur until the truth becomes clear.

We all (that is, me) know and love Alfredo Brescia for his wonderful, threadbare SF films about dysfunctional space captains fighting cardboard robots and progress, and/or having sex.

Despite dysfunctionality and sex being somewhat important in the genre, I did not expect Brescia's talents to map very well to a giallo, because the word I don't use when thinking about Brescia is "style", and a giallo without style is just a rather confusing mystery movie. However, provided with a bit more money than he had for his SF films (and isn't that actually ironic, given that SF theoretically needs the believable creation of a future world unlike the rather more modest modern one of the giallo?), Brescia actually does get a bit stylish. He isn't on the level of a Sergio Martino or Dario Argento, of course, but there's some creative misuse of zoom racks, mood-building blocking of people behind carefully framed objects, and at least one clever visual idea per scene. The result isn't completely dream-like but always slightly surreal and definitely as lurid as plot and genre demand, with some actually suspenseful moments like Kathrin's first near-encounter with her stalker, or the death of the maid, thrown in for good measure.

Finding visually arresting ways to tell overcomplicated melodramatically violent plots about the corrupt ways of rich pretty people (you don't get much prettier than Pilar Velázquez or Robert Hoffmann) is of course what most second row giallos are all about. Even though Brescia's film isn't much of a serious critique of social class or does much that's thematically interesting, it is very good at that basic function of a lesser giallo, and therefore a perfectly great time when one is in the mood for this sort of thing (as I always am). As an added bonus, Ragazza ends in a perfectly ridiculous triple climax which drags the plot from the barely believable into the realm of the wonderfully absurd until it becomes rather difficult not to congratulate the film for its sheer wrong-headedness, or Alfredo Brescia for just being Alfredo Brescia.

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